By Hans Zeiger
When I first became acquainted with politics, I was
led to believe that political involvement was the great virtue of the American
way of life. Though I have not been dissuaded that Americans ought to be
involved in politics, I no longer see it as the foundation upon which our nation
will rise. For without a revival of faith and character and community, politics
could certainly become that with which America will fall.
have paid as much attention to the mass efforts that are now in play to register
and mobilize voters - especially young people - as I have to the presidential
campaign itself. I can conclude from my observations that we have acquired in
our modern political attitudes the sure groundings of what Alexis de Tocqueville
would label democratic despotism.
the realm of youth voting, we have seen an MTV/pop culture drive to the polls,
unparalleled in history with the possible exception of 1972, the first year
18-year olds were enfranchised. "Smackdown your Vote!" the
pro-wrestlers scream. "Rock the Vote!" the Left-wing bands demand.
"Choose or Lose!" the ever more decadent MTV pushes in every
commercial break, even interrupting reality shows to show Alicia Keys commanding
youth to vote, or re-broadcasting Drew Barrymore's so-called documentary
alleging that under-representation of youth voters is the worst repression of
voting rights since blacks were kept out of polls prior to the 1965 Voting
Rights Act, or claiming via Christina Aguilera that unless youth vote they will
lose their rights to sex, abortion, and irresponsibility. "Vote or
Die!" threatens rapper P. Diddy. And "Declare Yourself!" say
Norman Lear and a host of other celebrities.
the fervent movement to get youngsters out to vote on November 2? The reason is
because various special interests, mostly of the Left-wing variety, perceive
youth as a force that could revolutionize politics. But try as they might, I
don't suspect 18-24 year old voting will see much of an increase this year over
the 36 percent turnout levels in 2000.
of going to politics, youth have decided to volunteer and become involved in
their communities in ways no generation has done since the World War Two
generation. Socialists are worried, fearing that community and private
initiative will draw youngsters away from political activism.
warning comes from Jane Eisner, author of the new book Taking Back the Vote:
Getting American Youth Involved in our Democracy.
"There should be a real concern that the Band-Aid, stopgap measures
offered by episodic community service will relieve government - and by
extension, the public - of the responsibility to feed the hungry, protect the
environment, and school the next generation ... Relying on the voluntary sector
- with its well-meaning but often undependable and untrained workforce - to
compete these essential tasks alone is similarly unrealistic and even dangerous
... No amount of do-gooding can replace the cold, hard facts that bills are
passed and money is doled out by government, and that sometimes only the
exercise of raw, brute political muscle can hold politicians accountable for
other words, a democratic despotism can take care of us better than individuals
can take care of themselves, better than true compassion can take care of those
who need help. Not quite an uplifting view.
optimism begins with my own generation. I'm not talking about the fabricated
generation that MTV and the engineers of mass-produced culture would like for us
to be. I'm talking about the rise of community in the priorities of young
people, and the parallel decline of politics. Eisner says young Americans are
headed "toward compassion and their nonjudgmental concern for others, and
away from what they see as a political system driven by conflict and ego."
She sees this as a terrible trend. I see it as one of the best trends in modern
Baby Boomers were the most political generation of Americans ever. That their
children are not half as political need not provoke cries of desperation and
fear about the future of the country. Rather, it ought to inspire some hope.
Many in this generation, despite their lousy instruction in civics, rightly
perceive the spiritual void in politics. "A political system driven by
conflict and ego" - an image Eisner would rather young people not have of
politics - is not only a true description, it has become the motivation for
youth to seek solutions to social challenges outside of the realm of government.
since government ought to have its origins in self-government and community
institutions in the first place, the revival of the spirit of community can only
have positive results on politics when this generation gets around to the
prospect of political leadership some years from now.
Hans Zeiger is president of the Scout Honor Coalition, a Seattle Sentinel columnist, and a student at Hillsdale College. www.hanszeiger.com
expressed do not necessarily reflect those of PoliticalUSA.com.